An otter hunt - Use and practice of it

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James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
I have read that the expression "an otter hunt" was invented by Walter Scott of "Ivanhoe" fame, alongside a number of other expressions such as "lady friend", "lady love" and a few more.

I cannot quite understand what would be so specific and special about an otter hunt. Did he actually invent the phrase? Then, what was it called before he did?! Beyond the phrase, I did not know otters were hunted and cannot quite see what you would want to do with a dead otter spread out on the floor of the kitchen, really.

See here, Quinion: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-fre1.htm

He’s recorded as the first user of, to take a few terms at random, blood is thicker than water, Calvinistic, clansmen, cold shoulder, deferential, flat (meaning an apartment), Glaswegian, jeroboam, lady-love, lock, stock and barrel, otter hunt, Norseman, roisterer, Scotswoman (in place of the older Scotchwoman)...
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Considered by kings and commoners alike to be one of the most fascinating and skillful forms of hunting with hounds, otter hunting has been a summer sport in England for 800 years. King Henry II gave it prominence when he appointed a King's Otterhunter in 1170 and succeeding kings kept up royal packs of otterhounds until 1689.
    Then the hounds winded the otter lying on the bank and dashed up in a solid body. Before he had time to slip, they pounced on him and killed him.
    There you have the aquatic fox.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1130344/2/index.htm
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I don't believe for one nanosecond that Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) invented the term 'otter hunt' ~ if he did then what, as you say, James, did they call it before then?

    (As far as I'm aware, (river) otters were hunted in order to aid anglers ~ otters eat river-dwelling fish, apparently. Oh and because some folk will hunt anything that moves.)
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    OK, that is very interesting. I would say: (a) I had no idea otters were hunted (but, as Ewie points out, some people will hunt anything - to extinction in fact; some people will even eat anything); (b) The link to fishing (i.e. taking out a predator in the food chain to assist anglers) may be relevant; (c) I agree I cannot quite imagine W Scott 'inventing' the expression, but this is what Mr Quinion states in his newsletter (see reference given earlier).

    Maybe he was the first one to use the term frequently and/or graphically in his novels. [If you look at the list of terms coined by Walter, according to Mr Q., some look improbable, I mean in terms of giving him paternity: is there no trace of 'blood is thicker than water' before 'Ivanhoe'? I wonder.]
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    but this is what Mr Quinion states in his newsletter (see reference given earlier).
    Erm, it's not, quite (my highlighting) ...
    He’s credited with either popularising or inventing many words and phrases, to the extent that he’s marked as the first user of more than 700 in the Oxford English Dictionary and he lies third behind the Bible and Shakespeare in innovation in that work. He’s recorded as the first user of [...]
    The fact that there is no extant earlier written trace of "otter hunt", "blood is thicker than water" etc. doesn't necessarily mean RLS invented them....
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    OK, valid point. Walter S either invented XYZ expression, or made it more widely known, which is not the same thing.

    I presume - and I am no Walter Scott expert - that it could be a case of his mock-medieval fiction putting forward (and making use of) specific terms or phrases that had been known for years (or centuries), and had become marginal or dialectal, and/or were not usually found in print.

    Hunting otters would have been a well-known pastime, but maybe Walter was the 1st one to start writing extensively about it, hence 'otter hunt' would have become commonly used/known only after he fished it out of the lexicon, so to speak. (Similarly, as I understand, traditions relating to the Scottish clans, the pattern of kilts, etc - all of that was really finalised and fixed for ever in the 19th century, by the Victorians, and far from being original Scottish practice. In other words, it was all re-invented.)

    Popularizer Vs Inventor: it somewhat lessens the achievement of the great man. I am disappointed. :D
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Otter hunting in Lancashire continued way into the 20th century (observe). I'm sorry to say that one of my ancestors was a member of the Ribble Otter Hunting Association. (I'm not making this up ~ I used to own his badge).

    As the OED is forever learning, earliest citations are constantly being proven wrong, sometimes by decades. (Especially theirs:D)
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Ewie,

    Very interesting and it is a shame, in a way, that those traditional pursuits have died out (e.g.: bear baiting, or putting the heads of criminals on pikes and/or their rotting bodies in iron cages on bridges, as a deterrent, etc.). Then again, I can see that some people would be relieved this kind of hobby is no longer widely practised - and we can only be glad the otters are not being hunted to extinction any more...

    PS - This dog that is your icon-cum-symbol-cum-standard-bearer: is it an otter-hunting dog, by any chance? I must say he does not look very fierce. I would not even be too sure he could catch a dormouse, or even a fat bluebottle if it landed on his nose. :p
     
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